Wanderlust With Kids? 5 Reasons Why We Prioritize Family Travel

“Why the hell would you want to take the kids with you?!” Or “Are you out of your mind? You’re going to spend how many hours in a (car, airplane, boat, etc) with three kids?! Why???!” These are questions I’ve gotten on many occasions when telling people about some of our family travel plans. I admit that they do have a good point. No one in their right mind REALLY wants to spend hours and hours traveling with small children, unless you’re some sort of masochist or have the patience of a holy saint. It also isn’t because I love my precious angels oh so much I just can’t bear to part with them for even a day to travel without them (I mean, I DO love them, but Mommy needs some space sometimes). Being a stay at home mom I also get plenty of quality time with my children right at home on a daily basis, so it’s not like I necessarily need to get away to experience togetherness with my brood. So why do we seem to always find ourselves on the go? Below I’ve outlined the top 5 reasons why we travel so often with our kids

1) Wanderlust
I definitely suffer from a bit of wanderlust, which is a big reason that we travel as much as we do. My one biggest regret in life is that I didn’t catch it earlier and travel more extensively before starting a family. Before having kids, my husband and I were known to randomly set off on vacations whenever the mood struck and we could swing it financially. We didn’t do a lot of adventurous or international travel, but living in south Florida made it easy to jump on a last minute weekend cruise deal or get in the car and head to Disney or Key West for the weekend. I always like to have a trip coming up to plan. I get anxious and feel trapped when I don’t. Even if it’s just a day trip to a nearby city. I love seeing new places and experiencing new things. Having vacations to plan also helps give me something to look forward to while I’m trudging through the tough days and long nights of raising three young kids. Knowing I have a small escape coming up helps keeps me positive and moving forward. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at researching and finding great ways to save money on trips to allow us the ability to afford to get away here and there as well. Of course a lot of parents who enjoy travel and have the ability to leave the kids at home will still continue to do so on their own, but that brings me to my next point:

2) We don’t have much of a choice
While I’d love to be able to spend a few quiet weeks a year drinking wine in the Italian countryside alone with my husband, that’s just not something we are able to pull off at this point in time. We’ve been very lucky to have the occasional kid free vacation over the years, but it’s not something we can easily do more than once every year or two, and only for a few days at a time. Our parents still work full time, and we certainly can’t afford to leave them with a nanny (and I wouldn’t be comfortable with that option even if we could). Between everyones work and school schedules just trying to find any small block of time that works well for everyone involved is nearly impossible. Plus let’s face it, taking on the responsibility of three young boys for more than a few hours is a big favor to have to ask of anyone! So while we are extremely grateful for the times that all of the stars and moons align and we can get someone to take the kids for us to escape for a few days here and there, I don’t want to limit all of my life’s travels to a few days every two years. So, referring back to my wonderlust mentioned above, if we want to go and see and do, the kids have to come along. So while our days of our carefree, kid free type of vacations are mostly behind us, we decided to keep going away here and there when we could make it work, but with the kids in tow. It definitely isn’t always easy, and we’ve had quiet a few trips that were downright awful and disappointing and left us swearing we’d never take the kids anywhere again. However, being a stay at home mom, my days are filled with meltdowns, fighting, schlepping, sleepless nights, and an endless list of other miseries. So for me, dealing with these problems away from home doesn’t even bother me too much. The way I see it, I can deal with it all at home while also having to cook, clean, and deal with the normal daily grind. OR…I could put up with some of the usual crap from the kids while also sitting on a beach with a cocktail or driving through gorgeous mountain ranges and get a nice break from having to clean and cook (or at least much less than usual). There are lots of other benefits to family travel as well:

3) Family Bonding
Okay so this one is obvious, but I still had to include it because it really is so important. Of course we try to find ways to spend time with each other and our kids at home, but time together on vacation is just different. One of my favorite things about family vacations is getting to really spend time experiencing our kids together. My husband works long hours and our weekends tend to be crammed with social activities or things we need to get done and it doesn’t allow us a lot of time for the five of us to all be alone together. My husband and I often find ourselves taking a “divide and conquer” approach to balancing life with the kids which allows us each to get quality time with the kids one on one, but rarely both of us at the same time. So on vacation it’s really great to get to spend so much time with my husband and my kids all at once. This allows us to regroup and work together as a team and really examine our parenting and areas we need to change or work on. At the same time we get to marvel at what an awesome job we really are doing, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. It also gives the kids a lot of quality time with their Dad which they absolutely love. The kids spend more time playing together and having fun with each other too. Taking away the stress of daily life gives us all a chance to have fun together and learn new things about one another.

4) Life Lessons
Not only does traveling together as a family give my husband and I a chance to spend more time together and see and experience a lot of the places we want to without having to stress over child care arrangements, but it also helps provide my kids with valuable life experiences and opens their minds to places and things outside of their own environment and comfort zone. They get a chance to learn things about themselves and explore the things they have an interested in. At first we made the most of our family vacations out of necessity. We had no choice but to bring them so we took a “lets try to enjoy it the best we can” mindset and learned to adapt to a different way of experiencing our vacations. But now that our kids are getting a little bit older, it’s actually exciting for us to watch them experience new places and new things and seeing their true personalities emerge. It drives me to be more adventurous in our destination choices and the activities I want to plan for us.  We recently returned from a ten day vacation to Maui, by far the biggest vacation we’ve ever taken with the kids, and my six year old had a blast. He got to snorkel off of a catamaran, go ziplining, and learn to boogey board. My four year old was endlessly fascinated by the small details of nature, collecting rocks and leaves and noticing all of the wildlife around us we weren’t even paying attention to. The baby was able to overcome his fear of the water and really enjoy himself splashing around in all of the great kiddie pools the resort had. They all experienced and enjoyed the trip in wonderfully different ways, and it was so amazing to watch. This is what makes it worth it. This is why I want to keep traveling with the kids as much as we possibly can while they still actually WANT to go places with us.

My super excited six year old zipping for the first time in Maui

5) Experiences over Things
For the past few years we’ve really been trying to put an emphasis on spending money on experiences versus things. People strive to attain happiness in their lives, and in our society today a lot of people turn to a variety of expensive material objects in an attempt to bring them happiness. However, several scientific and psychological studies have shown that the real contribution to long lasting happiness and overall life satisfaction comes from spending ones money more on experiences than on physical objects. While a physical object may make us happy in the moment, our satisfaction with said object tends to fade over time, and we desire newer and better. But with life experiences, our satisfaction with the memories those experiences bring us does not fade. It contributes to our overall wellbeing and appreciation of life. We are in total a sum of all of our life experiences, good and bad. We form deeper relationships with people based on shared interests and experiences, not from someone owning the same possessions that we do. I want my kids to learn that material objects are not what matters in life. I want them to to experience the most life has to offer and be shaped by a wide variety of experiences outside of their day to day lives. Travel, museums, learning a new hobby, playing sports, all of these things help contribute to a life full of experience related enrichment. Yes, I understand that you can put a price on a vacation, or most activities for that matter, but you can’t put a price on the life lessons learned and the incredible memories you create. The same can’t be said for rooms full of toys and a closet full of designer clothes. We aren’t wealthy. We can’t just pick up and take the kids wherever we want, whenever we want without worrying about the cost. We budget and sacrifice just like all families do, we just try our best to fit occasional travels and activities into our budget. A little bit of money put away here and there, along with careful planning and deal hunting can make the occasional vacation a lot more doable than a lot of people think. I’d rather spend my money on a weekend trip to the beach or dinner at a new restaurant than a new purse or pair of shoes. Some years we are able to do a lot more than others, and we aren’t going to waste money that is better spent on something else we need, but we keep travel a priority in our lives. (Future blog posts on how to save money on travel will be coming soon!)

If there’s one top tip I can offer any parent looking to expand on their family travel plans, it’s to keep a positive mindset. Will a trip with little kids be all fun and happiness? No, no it won’t. Kids are kids and the meltdowns and tantrums and sleepless nights don’t come to a stop just because you’re on vacation (in fact, they can often be worse when away from home). It’s up to you to not let it discourage you, stress you out, and get you down. Let the little things go, keep a positive mindset, and focus on what truly matters. You’ll all have a much better time if you do. Get out there and enjoy the world with your kids, it’s worth it!

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